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19 Jun, 2007 23:08

Pakistan & Iran condemn knighthood for writer Salman Rushdie

Pakistan and Iran have formally complained to Britain about the award of a knighthood to the writer Salman Rushdie. They have demanded the honour, for the author of “The Satanic Verses”, be withdrawn as it insults Muslims.

Angry demonstrations have been held on the streets of Lahore and Karachi.

It follows the Britain’s announcement on Saturday to award Salman Rushdie a knighthood. The author is widely known for his novel “The Satanic Verses”, which has been accused of insulting Islam.

Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq said the Rushdie's knighthood could be used by some as to justify launching suicide attacks.

“This is what adds fuel to the fire, and when these things happen you know that this is the root cause basically. And then somebody goes and kills himself and then he justifies that my prophet was, peace be upon Him, was maligned,” Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister, stressed.

In Lahore, protesters chanted anti-Rushdie and anti-British slogans, burnt British flags and effigies of the author, who they demanded be handed over to Pakistan.

The row deepened on Tuesday, when Pakistan’s Senate adopted a resolution condemning British award of a knighthood to Rushdie.

The country’s Foreign Ministry called in British High Commissioner Robert Brinkley to formally protest London's move. But Brinkley on Monday defended the decision to honour Rushdie. “Every year the Queen honours a wide range of people for their contributions to all sorts of different walks of life. Some of them are controversial but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’ve made important contributions to their fields,” Robert Brinkley said.

Rushdie is considered to be one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century, his 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for “Midnight's Children” in 1981.

He has been forced to live in hiding for more than a decade, after Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 religious edict ordering Muslims to kill him in the wake of “The Satanic Verses”.

London, meanwhile, has voiced concern over a Pakistani suggestion that the knighthood could be used to justify suicide attacks.